Personifying Color with Moisés Aragon
by Paul Weiner
Moisés Aragon is a multimedia artist born in the USA who identifies as a Cuban because of his undocumented status and family history. His artwork explores his personal identity as it relates to his Cuban heritage while also personifying colors with the guidance of color theory. His work can be found online at http://threeturpentine.com.
Could you describe why you’ve gotten into making artwork that relates to Cuba?
To some extent, the entirety of my body of work relates to Cuba. It’s technically my native land. My family is from that great Antilles, so my bloodline resonates. I do remember the natural feeling of being cuban since childhood, and I’ve kept that identity ever since.
When I started with what would become my art career at the age of 8, my thought process of leaving a legacy of art was not of being a U.S. artist but a Cuban artist – somewhat rhetorical for an 8 year old, huh? It wasn’t until adulthood, 19, that my work truly reflected an intentional reflection of the nationality that I’ve always identified with. Withholding irony, this transition coincided with being shortly before my first visit to my country.
While on the island, I produced a brief series comprising of rubbled, corrugated sheet metal onto which I was painting with the now-faded characters of the P.Y.AL series including green and something else I can’t remember. Producing that series most definitely laid the foundation for the current incarnation of P.Y.AL. Aside from the P.Y.AL series, I’m currently focusing on quasi docu-style photography/video work, a mix between candid, surrealist, and architectural work.
The next transition is producing art, tangible or otherwise, in my country and having that work become part of the legacy in progress.
Explain the idea behind your P.Y.AL Series.
The current form of the series started in Chicago, circa 2009. At the time, the series itself was in purely abstract/conceptualist form with a strong emphasis on color theory and the relationship between Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves & Red and Payne’s Grey (occasionally brown and green). I had been developing the series for 10 years prior, so it felt right to transition to something explicitly figurative and to explore another relationship. This time it was between traditional media and technology. I have since embraced what I view as a concise merger between traditionalism in art and being a contemporary artist in the 21 century.
I decided to incorporate traits of myself onto each figure, and, as a trio, they do indeed encompass the artist as a whole. My love of nature, relationship with plants, and yearning to have my own garden are embodied in Yellow’s weaponry, a young avocado tree in a planter. Autumn Leaves’s needs to care for his companions during battle with no remorse for personal consequences is a trait that I certainly have with my companions. And Pink, well, Pink is an amalgamation of fantastical factions and the attribution there of but with a not-so-obvious conscious understanding of the reality surrounding him.
This series, in its current and past incarnations, offers the viewers or patrons a chance to understand intimately the psychology of the author of each painting, drawing or video.
Given your legal status, have you found that people in the art world discriminate against you or your artwork in any way?
Yes, absolutely. One of the major misconception about the self-taught artist is that any work produced by one isn’t refined or it’s not art because it can’t be justified without a BFA/MFA. How can I put this? Creating art is nonsense. Drawing a twi inch line and nothing else on a piece of paper could be and, for the sake of argument, is an exhaustive and satisfying effort. But it’s just a line. However, having a BFA/MFA facilitates doors being opened for networking opportunities, and, in turn, that line on a piece of paper has a 100% chance of, at the very least, getting exposure in a gallery.
Another issue that comes with being undocumented is that you are susceptible to having your work stolen and plagiarized. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve had gallerists, peers, and close friends who are getting decent exposure steal from me with their justification being, “well, he’s a nobody, so it doesn’t matter.” I mean it’s great that my work is good enough to be stolen, but it’s hard not being able to recover copyrights and lost profits.
Do you view your work as being conceptual?
I definitely have conceptual pieces in my portfolio, but, as a whole, I wouldn’t say that what I produce is solely conceptual.
What art medium is your favorite to work with?
To be honest, I don’t have a favorite medium. Budget is a major factor that dictates how my work gets executed. The series itself, P.Y.AL, is ever-evolving from medias to dimensional incorporation, augmented reality, to concept.
Could you explain your process for making video art?
I’ve only recently started to execute video art as an extension to my P.Y.AL series and for Cuba-related work. Video work that is specific to a series is more or less researched and planned out in tandem to 2-dimensional work. For example, the 2-D side of the P.Y.AL series showcases vignettes of battles and fighting scene between the protagonists and the antagonists – Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves versus Red and Payne’s Grey, respectively. The live-action side of that series, video work, emphasizes the down-time or, rather, what happens between battles and conflicts. In one video, I have Pink wandering through an abandoned warehouse or factory searching, exploring, reminiscing, and lamenting the moment after a battle. Currently, I’m focusing more on creating a sustainable amount of shorts that would explain the characters’ poses, fighting or otherwise, seen on paintings and drawings.
Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.